What is the role of lab testing in the diagnosis of Wernicke encephalopathy (WE)?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018
  • Author: Philip N Salen, MD; Chief Editor: Andrew K Chang, MD, MS  more...
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Tests to perform include the following:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) - Rules out severe anemias and leukemias as causes of altered mental status.

  • Serum glucose levels - To exclude hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia as causes of encephalopathy.

  • Liver function tests and ammonia levels- To exclude hepatic and some medicinal causes of encephalopathy.

  • Basic metabolic profile (BMP)- To exclude hyponatremia and uremia as causes of encephalopathy.

  • Pulse oximetry and/or arterial blood gas (ABG) measurement - Exclude hypoxia and hypercarbia as causes of encephalopathy.

  • Toxic drug screening - Excludes some causes of drug-induced altered mental status.

  • Consider lumbar puncture (LP) - Consider LP to exclude CNS infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis, if indicated.

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